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Injury Prevention and Performance Enhancement for Surfers

Surfing injury prevention

As a Chiropractor working on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, a large array of my patients are surfers or are closely tied to someone who does surf. Whether this be the more regular grommets, to the weekend warriors that still like to have a crack. Most people are happy to run down to the beach, put their leg rope on and jump in the water without doing any form of warm up or stretching. This may be one of the only sports where this is deemed acceptable, other than maybe lawn bowls. If you look at rugby, Aussie rules, cricket, netball, they all include a hefty warm up to firstly prevent injury and to secondly help people perform at their best. So, what your everyday surfer or weekend warrior needs to both prevent injury, surf better and paddle stronger is a warm-up routine tailored for them. Unfortunately, there is no perfect warm up or stretch routine for every surfer because everyone is different.

Surfing is unique as it requires a high level of flexibility whilst maintaining strength and balance. As everyone is different here are some basic rules to follow for ‘surfing injury prevention’ and ‘performance enhancement’.

Injury prevention – on and off the beach:

  • Start dynamically by running down the beach, this will start to get the blood pumping.
  • Stretch the muscles that you are feeling are tight/short. Commonly for the weekend surfers the hamstrings, low back, gluteus muscles and upper trapezius are great starting points.
  • Activate through the opposite muscle group to which you stretched. For the above muscles that would be the quadriceps, lower trapezius and the total core, this includes the breathing muscle, the diaphragm. Yoga breathing by expanding the abdomen during inhalation. In through the nose for 4 seconds, hold the breath in the abdomen expansion for 2 seconds then exhale through pursed lips for 6 seconds.
  • Thoracic extension mobility will take pressure out of the cervical spine, preventing the onset of “surfers neck” and shoulder tightness when paddling.  It will allow the latissimus dorsi, teres muscles and lower traps to activate more keeping you paddling longer and stronger.
  • Balance exercises for proprioception, one leg standing then progress into eyes closed with one leg standing. If you can do this on sand, even better. Time yourself to go longer and longer each attempt.
  • A crucial component is keeping enough mobility through the hips. Have the surrounding muscles switched on also prevents it travelling down the chain resulting in some form of twisting action at the knee. If this occurs it will likely keep you out of the water for a longer period than what you want.

Performance enhancement:

  • Visualisation, made famous in the surfing world by Mick Fanning, is a clear performance improver. Imagine yourself bottom turning, and the specifics of how you want your body to move during turns.  Surf specific movements – on dry land but going into a deep bottom turn and rotating through the upper body following your leading hand with turns. This is more about technique. You can incorporate the visualisation with this.
  • Video yourself surfing to look at where you can improve and how your technique and body position can change. This will give you more direction in and out of the water.
  •  Focus your land training through the glutes and core as they are major power generators and balance controllers through turns. Build into plyometrics to get that explosive power as well. Start with Body weight squats or if you are unsure try Glute Bridges.
  • Thoracic mobility exercises as a large portion of rotation happens through the thoracic spine when doing turns in the water.

Give these components a go and you will no doubt feel better for longer. If you have any further questions book in with one of our amazing Health Space practitioners to assess your body for the best possible results.

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